My hair doesn’t hang down to my waist, nor do I have flawless brown skin, but that wasn’t going to stop me from wanting to learn more about the enchanting Tamure, or ‘Ori Tahiti’–the traditional Tahitian dance that Katie and I had witnessed at the Heiva celebration. So at 3:30pm one Wednesday, I rendezvoused with Victoire and Laura (my two young girlfriends who have both spent most of their lives traveling with their parents aboard their respective sailboats) and followed them to the dance school. Leaning against the bench-lined wall, I watched the little girls finish up their class with a solo performance, quietly praying there would be no soloing for my first lesson!
Soon I was one of ten girls, all wrapped in bright pareos and looking forward at the mirrored wall. On the opposing wall of the open, rectangular building, an old woman and a teenage boy beat upon the drums at the request of our teacher. Every foot in the room was bare and the scent of Monoi oil made each breath sweet. The beats of the Tahitian drums were penetrating; you couldn’t help but want to move. Alone, their sharp, rapid clacks could stir me into a twitching, bouncing frenzy, but amongst the group I controlled the urge to move wildly and focused my attention at replicating the movements of the teacher.
Her hips swayed in horizontal figure eights, then slower and more circular. All the while her shoulders remained still and she pulled her arms and hands slowly through air above her midsection as if it was invisibly thicker than that below. I struggled at first–always a bit behind on the turns and arm movements. My pointy, white limbs teased back at me from my reflection while I struggled to understand the teacher’s French commands. She placed her hands on my hips and pushed down; THAT I understood. I needed to bend my knees more! Despite how ridiculous I might have looked, I was relishing every step…By the end of the hour, I surprised myself. I’d actually become less painful to behold. Despite being far from uncovering the depths of the Tamure secret, I felt a hint closer, sensing that it lies somewhere between their bent knees and their genuine, brimming smiles.